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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, November 19, 1990. Interview L-0048. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Anne Queen's role in press coverage of the UNC food workers' strike

Pollitt describes the negative impact of the local press on the public's perception of the UNC food workers' strike. Anne Queen served as the intermediary between the workers and the administration. Pollitt argues that she did a lot to alter the public's perception about worker's rights.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, November 19, 1990. Interview L-0048. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

CINDY CHEATHAM:
Can we talk a little bit about the food worker's strike and Anne's role in that strike?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
The strike was for wages and more than that, for dignity. And it was a dirty thing that the University did in that they were working people eight hours and paying them eight hours, but they were not paying them minimum wage on the theory that minimum wage doesn't apply to state employees. It did. So they were wrong. But the eight hours would start at 6:00 in the morning when the people would come to prepare breakfast and end at 8:30. Then it would start again at 11:00 and go until 2:00 and then it would stop. It would start again at 5:00 until 7:30. I don't know how many hours that is, but they would get eight hours a day of work in, but they had to be there fourteen hours, you know. There's nothing much you can do between 9:30 and 11:00. They used to hang around outside Lenoir Hall with nothing to do. So, that was one thing. And then, the guy who ran it, there were a lot of grievances about, "Why can't I be a cashier? Why do only whites get to be cashiers?" And things like that. You'd been there so many years, and that didn't help you to get to be a cook. So, there was no upgrading. The people really felt abused and I don't think there was any particular spark of any sort that started it. But they went on the strike. I was the President of the AAUP then and we were having a meeting of the Executive Committee of the AAUP at one of the food places which has now since been closed. And we found out we couldn't be served because there was a strike. So, we then thought, "Should we get involved in this?" And I thought, "Well, we are involved in it." We can't even have our meeting. The faculty is involved." So, we started an expanded executive Committee and we invited the Food Worker's Union and the graduate students and the YMCA and the dean of something to meet every day with a brown bag lunch. And we met every day and tried to negotiate and basically, be informative and dispel rumors; all that sort of thing. Gustavison met with us regularly, as I recall. Well, then the thought was, "This thing has got to be settled." The Governor gave everybody a pay raise, ultimately, after he had sent the troops in to rescue the old law school building. That was a trauma to have the State Troopers to come in with big sticks and helmets and plastic masks and everything. They took one giant step forward and we took a half a step backward and it was really traumatic. But then, what do you do about it? Then the Faculty Council adopted a resolution that would appoint a committee to look into see what's right and what's wrong. And all that time, there was a Scott. He was brother of the governor or the uncle of the governor. I forget what his first name was. But he was an extremely influential legislator and might well have been a Trustee. Anne called him every day to keep him informed of what was going on so that he could tell whoever was appropriate about it. And she had an entire network of people that she was calling every day and inform that it's not true that this happened or that happened. And the only violence that took place was that one day the strikers, at 7:15, and it closes at 7:30, went through Lenoir Hall and turned over tables. They came in one door, walked through, turned over the tables that were there and went out the other door. Somebody called that "assault upon a table" or something. Well, that was the headlines for strikers, you know. "Strikers commit mayhem." And Anne Queen was calling all over. All they did was turn over a table. They went in there and turned them up and the situation was corrected in three minutes. It was not as WRAL reported. And she had the big network. And then, who should be on the committee to investigate Anne Queen, obviously? So, they came out and the recommendation was that wages be repaid, the Federal required wages, to obey the Federal law. And that there be a grievance process. And that was the first grievance process for the SBA people. They are now arguing about the grievance process. That was Anne Queen's grievance process, initially, but they kicked out the lawyers. I told Anne, "Put in a lawyer thing. They need somebody there to advise them." It goes back that far.